Protecting Loved Ones from Elder Financial Abuse

How to Avoid Tax-Related Identity Theft

Identity theft happens when someone steals personal information for financial gain. Tax-related identity theft happens when someone uses another person’s stolen Social Security number (SSN) to file a tax return to obtain a fraudulent refund.

Many people first find out they are victims of identity theft when they submit their tax returns. That’s because the IRS lets them know someone else already used their SSN to file.

How can you help elderly loved ones guard against identity theft? Try these tips:

Protect Personal and Financial Records

Encourage elderly loved ones to avoid carrying their Social Security cards in their wallet or purse. They should only provide their Social Security number if it’s necessary. Protect personal information at home and protect personal computers with anti-spam and anti-virus software. Routinely change passwords for online accounts.

Don’t Fall for Scams

Criminals often try to impersonate banks, credit card companies and even the IRS hoping to steal personal data. Learn to recognize and avoid those fake communications. Also, the IRS will not call a taxpayer threatening a lawsuit, arrest or to demand immediate payment. Beware of threatening phone calls from someone claiming to be from the IRS. The IRS does not initiate contact using social media or text message. The first contact normally comes in the mail. Those wondering if they owe money to the IRS can view their tax account information on IRS.gov to find out.

Report Tax-Related ID Theft

Here’s what you should do if an elderly loved one cannot e-file their return because someone already filed using their SSN:

  • File a tax return by paper and pay any taxes owed.
  • File an IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. Print the form and mail or fax it according to the instructions. Include it with the paper tax return and/or attach a police report describing the theft if available.
  • File a report with the Federal Trade Commission using the FTC Complaint Assistant.
  • Contact Social Security Administration at www.ssa.gov and type in “identity theft” in the search box.
  • Contact financial institutions to report the alleged identity theft.   
  • Contact one of the three credit bureaus so they can place a fraud alert or credit freeze on the affected account.
  • Check with the applicable state tax agency to see if there are additional steps to take at the state level.

IRS Letters

If the IRS identifies a suspicious tax return with a taxpayer’s stolen SSN, that taxpayer may receive a letter asking them verify their identity by calling a special number or visiting an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center.

IP PIN

If your elderly loved one is a confirmed ID theft victim, the IRS may issue them an IP PIN. The IP PIN is a unique six-digit number that the taxpayer uses to e-file their tax return. Each year, they will receive an IRS letter with a new IP PIN.

Service Options

Information about tax-related identity theft is available online. The IRS has a special section on IRS.gov devoted to identity theft and information for victims to obtain assistance.

For more on this topic, see the Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft.

Additional IRS Resources:

IRS YouTube Videos:


Beware the NEW Social Security Scam

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has issued a warning to those receiving benefits.  

Scammers are calling from a 232 area code, claiming to be employees of the SSA. The con artists are telling the intended victims that they qualify for an increase in their Social Security benefits. At that point, the caller is asking for personal information like date of birth, social security number, name and address for verification purposes.

This information is later used to change the victim's direct deposit details, phone number and address.  

The Social Security Administration stated that they WILL call for customer service; however, they will not ask for private information over the phone. If you receive a suspicious call, you may report it to the Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-269-0271.   

Sources: Office of the Inspector General Social Security Administration, AARP and Fortune.com

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